Editor’s note: Each Wednesday, Talk Business & Politics provides “Health Beat,” a round-up of health-related topics.
U.S. HEALTH INSURERS INCREASE DEBT DUE TO AFFORDABLE CARE ACT
U.S. health insurance carriers have increased the amount of borrowed money on their statutory balance sheets by nearly 100% over a four-year period to approximately $6.4 billion at year-end 2015 from just under $3.3 billion in first-quarter 2011, according to a new A.M. Best special report.
The study notes that the financial leverage for the health industry has increased to more than 30% due to mergers & acquisitions and is expected to increase to well above 40% with the completion of two large mergers that are pending (Anthem Inc.-Cigna Corporation and Aetna Inc.-Humana Inc.).
While growing debt at publicly traded managed care organizations was driven by large-scale acquisitions, higher borrowing at statutory entities is partially tied to challenges brought by the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and exchange products, the report noted.
VISUAL IMPAIRMENT, BLINDNESS CASES IN U.S. EXPECTED TO DOUBLE BY 2050
With the youngest of the baby boomers hitting 65 by 2029, the number of people with visual impairment or blindness in the U.S. is expected to double to more than 8 million by 2050, according to the most recent census data funded by the National Eye Institute, part of the National Institutes of Health. Another 16.4 million Americans are expected to have difficulty seeing due to correctable refractive errors such as myopia (nearsightedness) or hyperopia (farsightedness) that can be fixed with glasses, contacts or surgery.
The researchers published their analysis on May 19 in JAMA Ophthalmology. They estimate that 1 million Americans were legally blind (20/200 vision or worse) in 2015. Having 20/200 vision means that for clear vision, you would have to be 20 feet or closer to an object that a person with normal vision could see from 200 feet away. Meanwhile, 3.2 million Americans had a visual impairment in 2015 — meaning they had 20/40 or worse vision with best possible correction. Another 8.2 million had vision problems due to uncorrected refractive error.
UAMS HANDS OUT AWARDS TO 1,002 GRADUATES, HONORS FORMER SOUTHWESTERN ENERGY CHAIRMAN
The University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) awarded certificates to 1,002 graduates at its five colleges and graduate school during its commencement ceremony at Verizon Arena in North Little Rock on May 21.
Diplomas were presented to 163 in the College of Medicine; 304 in the College of Nursing; 113 in the College of Pharmacy; 61 in the Fay W. Boozman College of Public Health; 72 in the Graduate School; and 289 in the academic programs that make up the College of Health Professions.
During the ceremony, UAMS Chancellor Dan Rahn presented the Chancellor’s Award to Charles Scharlau, the retired chairman and former CEO of Southwestern Energy Co.
Scharlau, a native of Mountain Home, has been the director of several business corporations, including Arvest Bank in Fayetteville; First Arkansas Bankstock Corp. in Little Rock; and C.H. Heist Corp, based in Florida. A graduate of the University of Arkansas, Scharlau served on the Board of Trustees from 1997 to 2007, and as chairman for the 2005-06 academic year.